In light of fashion month kicking off, I thought it was high time we discuss the awkward truth about NYFW.
I admit, kind of a weird post for a”fashion blogger” to write…especially one who began writing about NYFW, but here goes.
If you told me the first time I went to New York Fashion Week that I’d be writing this down the road, I wouldn’t believe you. In fact, not only would I not believe you…I’d likely follow up with a rant on a million and one things that make NYFW so great.
But alas, here we are. Several cycles later and the thought of New York Fashion Week brings me a wash of sadness…or indifference…or maybe a combination of both.
The Awkward Truth About NYFW
Truth is, the first time I attended NYFW it was a dream come true. I had worked for and earned invites to a full schedule of shows and enjoyed more than a few “pinch me” moments along the way. I was basically a ball of energy and enthusiasm…running on next to no sleep because my excitement was too high for whatever awaited me the next day. I saw household name designers. I saw more niche designers whose work I’d admired season after season. It was the first time in my life I could actually hold real conversations about fashion with people because here in the Midwest people really just don’t keep up and certainly don’t know about what creative director is moving where.
Today? New York Fashion Week comes with a level of indifference.
A take it or leave it…certainly a long cry from the must-see event it used to be. For a minute I thought it’s just me becoming jaded to it, but if I’m being honest…there are a handful of factors at play that seems to have really deescalated the excitement surrounding New York Fashion Week as a whole.
In this post, I want to share my take on the current state of New York Fashion Week. After being a huge fan for well over a decade, I now sit and see that the electricity that used to surround the weeklong event has faded. I’d also really like to hear other opinions on where NYFW stands today.
When I got thinking about the awkward truth about NYFW, I boiled it down to five key points that I feel have influenced the shift from a must-see event landing on the back burner. I’m sharing my five thoughts below but encourage you – particularly if you’re a major fan of NYFW as I am – to share your thoughts on just why it seems to be struggling.
The Instagram Attention Seekers
Every time I’ve gone to NYFW and every single show…for me, it was about fashion. I remember first getting invited to Naeem Khan and just being overjoyed and honored to get to see first-hand the latest collection in person. I race into every show on my schedule eager to see the latest designs, never aiming to steal street style photographers’ attention and absolutely NEVER holding up a show so I could get my “Instagram shot” in on the runway.
But the truth is: Instagram has kind of ruined the NYFW experience.
What is supposed to be a celebration of the designers’ work has become merely a prop in a series of “Do it for the gram” posts in the never-ending chase for likes? Some “influencers” and Instagrammers don’t even get invited to or attend shows, but merely show up and lurk around outside as a means of keeping up appearances. I obviously would never name names, but there are countless people who inauthentically exploit the NYFW experience for the sake of posting on social media. (And don’t even get me started on the fact that you can’t go anywhere without witnessing an Instagrammer nearly get hit by a car because they’re busy taking outfit shots in oncoming traffic). I remember getting an instagram direct message from someone who was at the same show as I was. They also mentioned their frustration on this topic too. At least I know it’s not just me.
On one hand sure, it’s great that the world of social media and the internet has opened NYFW to a wider audience than just fashion editors, stylists, and select celebrities. But on the other hand, the Instagrammer’s way of flipping the presentation of a designer’s hard work to be merely the latest chance to post a mugshot of themselves on Instagram for likes…the real point of it all gets understandably lost.
Lack of Excitement
Truthfully, I think everything in life goes through highs and lows…so I don’t mean this will last forever when I say there’s a lack of excitement at New York Fashion Week, now.
Some might say it’s changed ever since space at Lincoln Center was lost (which very well hurt things) but I also think we haven’t seen anything really NEW at NYFW in a while. Obviously the collections have their strong points, but even designers like Alexander Wang that used to unveil the most interesting fresh collections have fallen into a status quo feeling.
Then, of course, there’s the fact that Paris Fashion Week has recruited several big names away from NYC for fashion month and the schedule feels a bit flat. Take Thom Browne for example, such a talented visionary whose runway shows are truly art exhibits through and through. He hasn’t shown at NYFW in years and shows no sign of going back.
That said, I also don’t think NYFW has done a very good job of allowing new talent to rise in the way that it used to. Who knows, maybe that’s because the Instagrammers are the ones gleaming up all the attention but it just feels like the days of one-hit new designer after the next on the schedule is over, at least for now. That could also be because high fashion in itself seems to not be as high buzz a topic anymore, but it really does feel like newer designers struggle to get a spotlight.
Last season, I went to a few CFDA designers showcase events assuming they would make a pretty big deal about new talent. In the end, though, they were very small-scale events that likely got zero press. If the CFDA even is not committed to giving young talent a platform, how can we expect them to rise?
Designers Quitting NYFW
Let’s go back to Alexander Wang for a minute, a designer who has declared he won’t be participating in NYFW for the foreseeable future…opting to do off-season shows on his own (if at all) instead.
Tommy Hilfiger, a longtime fixture of NYFW, has taken to traveling to and fro with his collections…a method that does seem successful in gaining exposure through the elaborate sets, youthful designs and casting of models with large social media presence.
Then we have the likes of Rag & Bone and a whole slew of others choosing to forgo runway shows altogether in favor of glossy and editorialized lookbooks that catalog the upcoming collection.
No matter how you look at it, it would appear we are at an impasse with NYFW where no one is really sure if they’re in or out. Designers are dropping out entirely in pursuit of new mediums for showcasing their collections and the fashion week circuit is definitely taking a hit as a result. Every season, it seems that the NYFW schedule gets slimmer and slimmer….which makes me question how longterm a future NYFW really has. My hope is that this is just a quiet chapter and things will pick back up, but is this event wanted?
I honestly don’t know what the brand of NYFW is anymore. They have a handful of venues scattered around the city – each with limited branding and seemingly no common thread. Again, losing Lincoln Center as home-base obviously created a tougher landscape for NYFW as a whole. Then there was longtime presenting sponsor Mercedes Benz dropping out.
In the end, we find ourselves with an NYFW that feels very disconnected. Even their website has had big changes. It used to be a HUB of information and runway show replays, but that too has fallen by the waist side.
The overall sense of community has been lost. Sure, people still show up and go through the motions of the fashion week circus – but without much intent or heart. It’s definitely a sad thing to happen to an event that used to cultivate such buzz and creative energy. Couple this with signature designers dropping out there’s a sad “out of business” feel that I sincerely hope is just a transitional phase before the next chapter can begin.
See Now, Buy Now Disillusionment
As our culture shifts more and more into instant gratification, the model of New York Fashion Week, in general, has become outdated. The same, obviously, could be said for the other cities that host Fashion Week around the world. Sure, select designers are pushing themselves to make collections (or at least part of them) available immediately after they are shown on the runway…but that doesn’t seem to be enough to satisfy the NOW NOW NOW culture we exist in.
As a society, we generally seem to no longer “look forward” to anything. And so it makes sense that Fall or Spring collections being shown six months in advance don’t hold the captive audience they once did. We no longer live in an era of longing..and if we don’t have direct access to it ASAP…we’re going to move onto something we can buy this instant. Why think about and look at that bag you won’t be able to buy for six months when there’s others available to you right now?
This is why posts like Fall 2019 Trends You Can Wear NOW will spring up, because the fashion industry is fighting to hang on while refusing to let go of a model that society has pulled the plug on.
After loving (and obsessing) over NYFW for so many years, it definitely breaks my heart to see it struggling in any fashion. That bi-annual event used to be a source of so much passion and excitement!
Whether you’re a fan from afar or someone who’s attended NYFW in person, I’d absolutely love to know your thoughts on the subject. Like I said, my sincere hope is that we’re just living in a transitional phase before the next great chapter can begin!
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